To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the Online Hate Prevention Institute will be publishing a briefing by the Australian feminist campaigner Caitlin Roper to highlight how online expressions of violence against women are a major threat to women’s empowerment.

Caitlin Roper is a member of the grassroots organisation Collective Shout, which campaigns against objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture. As a result, she has been the target of an intense hate campaign by people, particularly men, who oppose her stand.

In this article, Roper shares her own experiences of online harassment and bullying to highlight how vocal female campaigners are actively being pushed out of the online public sphere. Using examples of the violent, threatening and sexualised abuse she has received on Twitter, she illustrates the different ways in which social media platforms are being used to “insult, humiliate, threaten and harm women”.

She also discusses weaknesses in the response of law enforcement and the social media platforms to prevent and/or penalise such online expressions of violence against women. The law enforcement officers often ask women to shut down their social media accounts, and social media platforms expect women to block and report the hundreds of abusing comments they receive, while taking no steps to prevent further abuse.

The article also includes OHPI’s recommendations to social media platforms to protect its users. These include:

  • Taking over the monitoring and investigation of large scale hate campaigns targeting particular users.
  • banning of IP addresses used to post such abuse
  • Proactive liaising with law enforcement agencies including sharing IP addresses with them at the platforms instigation

The UN theme for the International Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”. Online misogyny presents a big challenge to women’s empowerment. Empowerment implies the right to speak up for what you believe in freely without any fears. The aim of online misogyny is the exact opposite. It is to silence women’s voices on social and digital media platforms where we fight for our rights. If we allow it to succeed it will be a huge blow to the women’s rights movement.